Sunday, July 18, 2010

Paris and Revelations

So it's been a while since my last blog; I've decided that I'm not the best at keeping up with these things. I'd like to believe that that's because I'm too busy out and doing stuff. That's a good reason, I'd suppose.
The past month and a half have brought a lot of changes to my life here. For starters, I changed host families a few days after my birthday (mid-June). It's not that I was being starved at my old house or anything, but the old host mom and sister just weren't really around. I really enjoy having someone to talk to, having family dinners. It was kind of difficult to arrange much 'hanging out' with friends because of my busy work schedule, as well as being exhausted at the end of the day.
Long story short, I moved in with the Festers, the family of an exchange student buddy of mine. They are a mama, a papa, and three wonderful and wild 12 year old triplet boys. We have breakfast together every morning (I enhanced the breakfast table array with peanut butter) and swim, ride bikes, and watch movies in English together. That last part is a demand from my host father; if the boys are going to watch movies with Super Nanny (my newly established nickname), they have to be in English. This way, the native speaker can answer any questions! Overall, I am very happy with my new family and know that I have, once again, established some true friends for life.
As far as work goes, I don't want to be a Debbie Downer, but I am quite ready to be finished. I enjoy my internship, but it is quite a lot of scanning, copying, and sorting of papers; a little too much butt-on-seat action for me.
I am sitting on the Thalys train from Paris right now. I left Cologne on Friday evening and rode through Aachen and Brussels- the train also made a bonus stop at "Middle of a Field". The train in front of us broke down, so I sat arranging photos and listening to music. Every time the announcer came on to say something (in French), everyone would gasp. I acted mildly surprised; I couldn't arch my eyebrows as high as I would have had I understood what was being said.
I got to my youth hostel at around 11:30 and thankfully plodded into my room, where I met my roommate, a sweet, young English teacher from Taiwan.
The next day I work up early, scarfed some breakfast, and headed for the Eiffel Tower. It was kind of surreal seeing it- it made me think of my first time in Germany and seeing castles. Here I ran into two Canadian girls- we spent about 3 hours together, plodding around in the field in front of the Eiffel, viewing a shooting wall from the Revolution times, eating fresh Boulangerie pastries, and exploring the gardens of the Louvre museum. We parted, and I went to find Caitlin.
Cait and I finally met up in the late afternoon after some Metro (subway) issues, but we found it! We walked around for hours, visiting some great thrift shops at the suggestion of her French friend, and we finally plopped down for a wonderful pizza and salad dinner at 8:30. We walked along the river, evaded some creepers, and headed back to the youth hostel for some wine and good conversation.
After a quick view of the Arc de Triomphe and an unsuccessful search for barets, we said au'voir.
I grabbed some lunch in the Gare du Nord train station. There was suddenly a free seat, and I asked the young girl sitting nearby if I could intrude. Mathilde, a beautiful red head with Bohemian dress, was a wonderful lunch companion. She had just returned from the Czech Republic where she was learning about farming techniques. We exchanged emails and I hope to see her again!

Now that it's coming to the end of my time here, I can honestly say that I am ready to be coming home. Europe is beautiful, and I am so thankful for all that I have been able to see and do, but I am ready to see my family, ready to lay in my bed with my dogs, and ready to get into the fall semester. I found out, too, that I got an internship in a school in southern India. I'll be teaching English at the Bridge School, an NGO-founded center for holistic education. I am very, very grateful for this and excited to see where it leads me. I feel that I want to teach- I realize how much I love working with children and worldly, natural education is a beautiful thing. I hope to be a good conveyer of this gift.

This will quite possibly be my last blog. As is noted, I just haven't really been writing much lately. I guess I've been experiencing so much that I have to process it all first!
Thanks for reading. I wish you all well and a wonderful life.
Liebe Gruesse,

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


I rounded off my second week at the job with some fun days centered around student ticket-booking and creative cooking- no rhyme intended.
I had to do a lot of nit-picky, number typing; something that, when it comes to plane tickets, you want to pay a lot of attention to! I must admit, sometimes I get a little de-stimulated with OCD sorting and computer faceplant tasks, but lunch time helps me to revamp.
I've been starting to recognize that cooking is a true soul-soother for me. Before I was kind of critical of myself; everything needed to be perfect or else noone would enjoy it. I've started approaching it a different way, though: rather than having it be "perfectly" healthy, tasty, or aesthetically pleasing, I am trusting my own palate and sense of creativity. It truly is enlivening. First planning your potential plate in your head: decorating the naked meat (or vegetarian-friendly protein :) ) with any herbs you may desire, steaming/sauteing/baking earthy vegetables, and rounding it off with a hearty grain. I write down my ideas, linking the flavors together to create a satisfying, whole meal, and then I begin to cook.
If you let it, rinsing, chopping, stirring- even the post-feast cleaning- is meditation. One of my older brothers has taken his passion for this art and is a Zen master of his kind; I am very proud of him.
Including today, I've cooked for my coworkers for the past 4 days; stir-fry and a peanut-cabbage salad, mexican salad with homemade whole wheat tortillas, eggs typical German bread and meat/cheese/mustard spread, and basil-lemon chicken with balsamic asparagus, broccoli, and toasted seed salad. Tomorrow: whole wheat spaghetti with shrimp tossed in an olive oil, garlic, and sun-dried tomato 'sauce' and a salad with olives and feta cheese. I am having a blast :)

After a fun Friday of train ticket-fetching and an intern-typical Starbucks run (the first one!), I packed up my bags and headed out to Hannover for a fun evening with friends.
One of Texas State's partner schools is in Hannover, and some of the German students were in San Marcos this past March. One of the kids I had gotten to know better had a birthday party planned, so I took a 3 hour train trip north.
It was great getting to see some friends from school, as well as meet some new people.
I didn't have much time to walk around the city, but what I did see was beautiful. The buildings there are so grand and historic; one of my friends laughed when I said this, calling them "just old", but I stand to my point!
Cologne definitely has its share of old and beautiful; all of Germany does.

I am really enjoying my time here. I have grown more, personally, and I have met many beautiful people already. I am feeling more and more settled in, greatly independent and forming a rhythm out of my life here. I am now officially a member of McFit, a well-known chain fitness center here in Germany; I was granted a special, 2-month workout visa :)
I am getting a feel of my role at work, as well as getting to know each of my coworkers individually.
I am looking forward to next week, when I'll get to see my parents, as well as celebrate my birthday with some good, old friends in Montabaur, where I lived last year.
In a few weekends I'll be hanging out with my oldest brother who, living and working abroad, I haven't seen for a few years.
July will have visits from friends, hopefully a trip to Saarbruecken to see a lovely relative, and a trip to Paris to meet up with a good friend from school.


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Wow. So it's been 2 weeks today since I left Texas; it's wahnsinn how quickly time flies!
I guess a lot of it has to do with me being so busy. Every day is a new adventure in the office. I've been doing a lot of secretarial sorting, scanning, and other busy-body 's' verbs, but I am truly enjoying it. I know that the students I am doing this for are soon to have the experience of a life time- one that I, too, was lucky enough to have.
Looking at where you are now, then tracing back the steps that brought you to this place can be quite enlightening. I think of myself as an 8th grader, offered the chance to travel to Germany with our Sister-City exchange. I had no knowledge of the German language nor the culture, itself. I didn't have much urging me to fly off to this foreign land, either- I just kind of had a feeling.
One Sister-City exchange and a 10 month stay later, here I am, soon to turn 20 and carving out a career for myself.
I think I'm kind of going through "that" phase right now; really expanding my mind and digging deep, trying to figure out what, exactly I want to do. I know that I want a career where I am helping people, where I am not working in an office/sit-down environment, and where I can be creative.
As of yet, I am really considering spending this year's winter break in Nepal with Passage International ( -check them out!), volunteering in the Langtang Valley in a school. I want to get involved in this work; I guess this trip would be an "experiment", huh?

The past few days have been pretty cool. I've been making time for exercise again, something that -with finals at school- I'd been cheating myself on. I can't argue with myself against a run through the emerald-green forest that borders the town, and the streets are quite pleasant as well- I can't help but sneak a quick glance through the bakery windows as I pass by.
I seem to get a lot of stares, too. I figure I kind of blend in with the blonde hair, etc., but maybe it's my jogging shorts? I don't mind all too much. The trick is to just stare back.
Another great thing about my work- we cook for one another. Ruediger, our spunky, young logistics manager goes "einkaufen" (grocery shopping) and we take turns being chef. Today was my day- I made a stir-fry with lots of veggies and chicken and a spicy Thai chili sauce served over Jasmin rice. I experimented with something rather new- a raw cabbage salad with lemon juice (the lime had mold), curry powder (cilantro's rare in Germany), and peanuts. It turned out to be pretty tasty, and it was nice to cook for my coworkers. Tomorrow's menu: Mexican salad with guacamole and homemade whole wheat tortillas.

So it's already 9:15 and I originally sat down with the mission of making my friend a birthday card. I best get to that.
Plans for the weekend: go to Hannover and hang out with the Texas State students on exchange; possibly have dinner with Hannah and her Dad.

I'll post some pictures soon!
Liebe Gruesse aus Koelle,

Monday, May 24, 2010

So I'm back. I still remember booking my plane ticket from my dorm room in San Marcos last October. It still hasn't quite sunk in that I'm sitting in Germany again.

For a little refresh, I was an exchange student in Montabaur, my hometown's sister-city, last year through the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange scholarship. The scholarship, a State Department-endorsed grant, is truly wonderful; about 300 American students ages 15-18 (myself included) received full funding for a 10 month stay in Germany where we lived with host families and attended Gymnasiums (spoken as'Gim-nasium'), German college-preparatory schools.
I learned a lot during my time here, both about the German culture/language and about myself. I'm now an annoying saleswoman for study abroad.
At the end-of-year conference held in Berlin in May 2009, Partnership International (our German host program) announced to us that we, as CBYX alumni, had the opportunity to complete an internship with the company at its headquarters in Cologne. A work program with the German Bundestag (Congress) in Berlin was also offered.
At the time, I wasn't considering an internship all too deeply, but after some strong consideration during the fall, I recognized that this opportunity would be a great way to get back to Germany, visit friends, and gain some real "work world" experience.

I arrived a week and a half ago- Friday, May the 14th, to be exact. My travel was rather "knapp", as the Germans would say; I rounded off my Spring semester at Texas State two days before hopping on the plane. It was a bit stressful, but I pulled it off with a 4.0!

My friend, Christian picked me up from the airport and we spent the day wandering about Frankfurt. I enjoyed once more the blissful taste of German bread and cappuccino and again experienced a 50° summer day. We spent that evening at Christian's home in Niederelbert -2km out of Montabaur- with some old friends, reminiscing and sharing updates. It felt so right to be back.

The next morning Christian (kindly) drove me to Cologne, which is normally about an hour and a half away with the Autobahn; Christian's 200 kmph cut that time significantly :)
We met my host mom and sister at McDonald's at the Hauptbahnhof (Main Train Station) and parted; I'll be visiting my friends in the Westerwald region again soon!

I've been fully enjoying the past week of working and getting to know my host family. I started my internship last Monday, and it's great so far! I've been doing a lot of sorting, etc., but I have also designed a Host Families For Thai Students poster and I got to use the "Buttonmaschine"- I must say that I make a mean pin-on nametag button.
All of my coworkers are quite young and all very entertaining and helpful. I look forward to spending more time in the office.

Things Zuhause (at home) are great, too. Hannah, my host sister, is wonderful. She is 19 and is about to complete her Abitur, the exit exams within the Gymnasiums. We have a lot in common and have already had some fun working out, dancing, and watching movies, and I have been teaching her some about cooking. She definitely saved my life the other day- I went on a walk through the forest hoping to find Bagersee, a nearby lake, and definitely ended up an hour's walk away from our town. I called Hannah, she Google-mapped my location, and she drove up to find her Ami (slang for American) sister, exhausted and hungry, squatting on the sidewalk.
My host Mom is a pretty hip lady. Helga runs her own tax consulting business and has a passion for travel; she's currently in southern France with her sister and will be back in a few weeks. She and Hannah will go to Thailand in the fall.

So I think that's enough for right now. Hope that's not too descriptive for you all; I really enjoy writing. I think I'll pick it up again...maybe I could start a blog like in Julie & Julia. I'll let you know what I decide :)
Until next time. I hope summer in the States is going well.

Liebe Grüße aus Köln,